Monday, March 31, 2014

A cruise, a new job, and a little running



Sorry about no Monday posts for a couple of weeks.  I figured since I was on vacation, I would start these back up when I returned.
Since it's "Me Monday" that means, I not only share about me, but I would love to hear about you too!  If you stop by my blog today and have a blog post you want me to check out, please make sure to leave me a link in the comment section below.

THE CRUISE

Near Ocho Rios, Jamaica
I recently returned from a Caribbean cruise.  We stopped off at The Key's, Grand Cayman & Jamaica.  All 3 islands were beautiful.  We had amazing weather the entire time we were at sea and at the islands.  I did a lot of sightseeing, went to Rum city, then to Hell.  Visited a National Park.  Climbed a waterfall, went horseback riding in trails in Jamaica, then swimming with horses (You can read about that HERE if you'd like), just to name a few things.
I decorated this post with a few of the travel pics.  I figure I'll save the adventure details for some upcoming Travel Tuesday posts, as well as the majority of the pictures.  But I had a great relaxing and fun time, and ended up with an amazingly dark tan that should last the summer:) 

In Hell, Grand Cayman

INJURY UPDATE & NEW JOB NEWS

Grand Cayman
For those following my work injury recovery.  I am so thrilled to say, it is doing great!  The trip ended up being amazing for it.  All that time away from work, I almost didn't even notice or remember I was injured the entire trip.
It even let me hike the 600 foot Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica, and as odd as this will sound.  It didn't hurt during or after (even though I was being super careful.)
The week before I left on the trip, I hardly worked, so the injury had lots of recovery time.  Then the week on vaction was great.  This past week, I only worked on it 1 day, it only bothered me slightly that day.  Otherwise, it's been amazing.

Which is 100% proof that the injury will never heal if I keep working on the job that caused it.  This means, the day I returned from the trip, I put a few feelers out that I was looking to change jobs.  I have had some amazing friends who let me know of a few right away.  I even interviewed for one last week, that I was told I may be offered the position later today actually.  I plan to interview for a few more this week as well.
My hope is to find a new job by mid to late April.

Tiki Beach, Grand Cayman
At this point I have absolutely no idea what life will bring.  But I am going to be cutting back the amount of weddings/events I do with my own company.  I absolutely love it, but most of my team members who work for me, are stay at home mom's and its becoming increasingly more difficult to have them work days other than weekends (good help is hard to comeby).  So it seems like a great time, for me to cut back on them a little, and find a 2nd career I will love as well.




RUNNING

Ocho Rios, Jamaica
I have been back to running, this past week I was able to bump it up a slight notch.
I've been running about 100 meter to 200 meter increments a few days a week as part of a run/walk routine.  The most I have ran in a single time if you add it up together was 400 meters.  Which may not be much, but its steps towards building back up.  I have to follow the Dr's and PT's advice and take this part very slowly.
Which is hard to do, but a necessity so it makes it easier to hold back.  So far so good, I have not experienced any pain in the injury area from running, YAY.  This week, I plan to increase it slightly more a couple of days during the week.
But I won't lie, I am already dreaming of the day that I can go out and just run again, and not have to hold back and take it easy for the injury...  But in due time:)

Spring  looks to be a run/walk building and recover time, and Summer so far is looking very promicing to be back to full running again. And Fall, well maybe I shouldn't get a head of myself, but I won't lie I am already secretly hoping there are some Fall and Winter marathons in my future:)

Sunset from the ship

The Spring Fitness hop ended.  I hope you all had a chance to enter as many of the 21 different blogs giveaways as you would have liked.  My giveaway winner will be posted HERE a little later today.  (Sorry, I wrote this post, Sunday night and I work today so I will post it as soon as I get home.)

Last, if you enjoyed participating in the hop.  Or maybe your a blogger who wasn't able to get in on it, and would like to join up in our next hop.  I will be hosting the next one in May, and you can click HERE and start signing up now if you would like.  I'll be sharing more details about it in the coming months, but for now I just wanted to share this quick mention.


So tell me what's going on with you?  Any spring races or fitness programs your involved with?  Have you been on any fun trips recently?  Do you have a fun trip planned for this year?
Additionally, if you have a post you want me to come check out, leave a link to it in the Comment Luv box, and I'll be sure to stop by and check it out!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Let me introduce Denise - Today's Runner Spotlight

Today is Spotlight Thursday 
Each Thursday I spotlight a different runner from around the world.

This week I'd like to introduce Denise.
I asked Denise, to tell part of her story and introduce you all to her.  So sit back and enjoy and gain some inspiration!

Denise Blogs At:
Tell us what distances you like to run?

5k and 13.1 are my favorites. 

How long have you been running?  Or when did you start running?

I started running with my school's running club in 5th grade. I stopped and started a bunch of times and wish I had stuck with it. I've been running consistently since 2011 when I began training for my first half marathon. 

What has been your favorite race and distance you have ever run?  Tell us why?

My favorite race was the 2013 runDisney Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland. It was my big goal race for a few reasons. I still had about 65 pounds to lose (out of 110 total) after being on restricted activity and bed rest during my pregnancy with my son. I wanted to lose the rest of the weight before the race and achieve the goal of running a Half. I did it!!!

If you could run any race in the entire world, where would it be and why would you pick it?

The Dopey Challenge during the runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. I ran the Wine and Dine Half there last November and have had it in the back of my mind for a long time that I wanted to do the Marathon too.  I'm hoping to get in for 2015.

Do you enjoy running in the spring, summer, fall or winter the best?

Since I live in the rainy Pacific Northwest, I enjoy running in the summer the best to enjoy drier streets and warm breezes.

Have you experienced any trials/injuries/health issues that you have had to overcome?  Tell us about them.

I've had two overuse injuries that sidelines me for 2 months each. The first was my right hip, diagnosed as hip bursitis and the second was severe back pain. My hip is fully recovered but my back still aches sometimes. I learned through the process to listen to my body about when to back off and when it's okay to train hard.

Tell me what goes through your mind when you cross a finish line?

Total relief that the training worked and I actually did it!

Do you have a specific distance and PR that you are proud of?  Tell us about it.

I'm proud of my finish at the Newport Marathon last year. It was my first marathon and a really tough race for me. Around mile 17-18 I started feeling really loopy and in pain. My feet were killing me, my body ached, and it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. The sheer determination of finishing and getting that medal was what pushed me. 

What is your favorite kind of running, solo running or running with a friend or group?

I have done races with friends but I'm more of a solo runner. It's my time to just be me, crank up my music, and run my heart out.

Do you listen to music while you run?  Give us the top 2 running songs on your playlist.

Yes, I love music! My favorite band to listen to is the Foo Fighters - they have been on every run with me since I started running again. My two favorite songs to run to are All My Life and The Pretender.

What is your must have running gadget, or item?

My shoes! I wear Mizuno Wave Inspire 9's and they are supportive enough to correct my overpronation but still lightweight. 

Do you have any tips of suggestions for someone who is thinking of starting up running?

Find a good training plan that you like. I really liked Jeff Galloway's run/walk/run training. 

Any goals you are currently working on, that you'd like to share?

I'm training for 2 half marathons in May to qualify for Half Fanatics. As a PNW runner, I've known about them for a while and this is the first opportunity I've had to really go for it.

You've had an incredible weight loss journey, and much success, what tips do you have for someone who is trying to get the drive to start their own weight loss journey?

Start with small changes and do them consistently. I believed for a long time that I would never lose weight or worse, continue gaining. It took walking a little more each day and eating a little smaller portion every meal for me to start to see real changes. I had a bunch of setbacks - times where I turned to food for comfort instead of talking to a friend and would see the numbers on the scale rise again. One day it just clicked for me that I didn't want to live that way any more and I never looked back. I've maintained a healthy weight for over 2 years now.

If you are a race ambassador, give a shout out to whom you represent.

I am honored to be a race ambassador for the 2014 See Jane Run Seattle Women's Half Marathon and 5k. 




You can find Denise blogging at:

She is also on Facebook at:


And on twitter





Wednesday, March 26, 2014

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch - A book review

I saw this book on my library's suggested reading list on new arrivals a few months ago.  So I put it on my Goodreads shelf, and there it sat until recently.  When I decided I needed a few good books to take a long on a trip, I decided to add this one to my reading plan because sometimes it's nice to read a book that you already know you won't have to wait for a sequel.

I have to say, I was so glad I finally read this book.  It was a hidden surprise literally from the first chapter and it never let up.  In fact, it was so good and different that I didn't even mind that I was stuck on a plane for 4 hours instead of 3, because it gave me time to pretty much read the entire book.  (Yes, I'm a fast reader.)  The only thing I hated was, I had to get off the plane, when I was about 15 pages from the ending, and I seriously did not want to have to wait a little while to have to finish it.

First, If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch is a tad different than most books.  It hooked me literally from the beginning and haunted my mind for a day following as I contemplated what I read and the storyline.  But when I say haunted, I don't mean it in a bad way.  This book has a storyline and subject matter that you can't help but think about for a while after you read the last page.  I'll be honest though, if you pick up this book you are going to want a good afternoon to read, because this story will grab you and it is not going to be easy to put down.  In other words, don't start it before bed.

Carey was kidnapped by her mother at a young age.  But unlike most mother's Carey's was not one that deserved to have her.  Taken from civilization and brought to a small broken down camper trailer hidden deep in a forest so they wouldn't be found.  With a mother who loved drugs and highs more than taking care of the daughter she took, Carey was left to basically raise herself.  Learning to go without food, deal with harsh winters and be on her own for weeks at a time when her mother would disappear, which for Carey's sake at times wasn't necessarily a bad thing to have free time away from her mother and what that at times would bring.

Eventually her mother got pregnant from one of her solo city visits, and Jenessa was born.  When Carey was still a young child of 9 and 10 herself, she had to become the mother that her sister needed.  Taking care of her, raising her, teaching her to read and write and how to survive.  Protecting her with everything she has, from both the elements and the other dangers that come from the life her mother has given them.

At the age of fifteen, Carey was used to being alone and raising Jenessa.  But when her mother left for town to get food, and weeks, then a month and then some go by without any word or appearance from their mother Carey begins to get worried.  Especially since the food has all but run out, and they are down to eating their last can of beans.
When two strangers appear, and take Carey and Jenessa from the only home they have ever known.  Forcing them into a world of people, civilization, new faces and foods they never imagined existed.  The girls aren't sure what to make of it all and both fear and excitement battle their minds.

Carey is forced onto a path, that is terrifying because she now will have to confront the haunted things from her past, the truths of what happened to her.  Jenessa who hasn't spoken a word in a year, will also have to learn to accept the changes and learn to live and grow.  The girls will be confronted with their own dark secrets from their past lives, that will leave readers in shock but also in awe of what hope and goodness in life can bring.

If You Find Me, is a story that unfolds in layers.  Although the subject matter is painful at times.  Emily Murdock writes it and weaves it a way that doesn't leave you with unsettling feelings, but instead you will fall in love with Carey and Jenessa and the bond between the sisters.  I actually found this book to be beautifully written and highly gripping.  This story will grab your heart and haunt your mind, but when you finish the last page you will be at peace with what the power of love can do!  I highly recommend this book.  It is a Young Adult book, however, the subject matter is more adult.  So in my opinion, adults will enjoy this read more, and I believe the content to be more appropriate for readers 16 and up.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Swim Horseback in the Caribbean - Travel Tuesday Jamaica


Today for Travel Tuesday, I am taking you on one of my most recent adventures.
A few days ago I had the awesome opportunity to visit Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  While I was there I signed up with one of the travel guide companies for a horseback adventure.

First we took a beautiful horseback ride through the backcountry of Jamaica.  I wish I had more pictures to show of this, but they did not allow me to bring my camera on the horseback ride.  (They wanted me to purchase the pictures they took.  Which I would have if they had been good, and a decent price.  However, maybe I am just cheap, so I didn't.)


However, the above picture was taken at the stable gates of where we started.  So this kind of gives you a good idea about the beautiful area.  I will say, the trails were around this area, but also near the Caribbean Sea as well, which is where we finished.
It was a beautiful fun ride, and I believe my first horseback ride since I think once or twice before when I was a child.
The horses for these are trained, and they pretty much know what to do.  Mine tried to run away and started trotting a few times, but either I was able to stop them, and once the guide rode up to pull the reigns to slow my horse "Alex" down.

For this first part, my horse did great, but at the end we had to cut through a corner of the water and my horse didn't like walking through all the sand and being up to his belly in water.  So I had to give him a few kicks to get him going to get through the water.  After that, up a short hill and my ride with Alex was over.



After we finished our backcountry ride, we took a short break, and then suited up in our swimsuits and wore a waist life jacket.  Because the next portion was my favorite.  We went BAREBACK swimming with the horses in the Caribbean Sea.  We switched horses for this.   This time, my horse didn't enjoy following as much as he enjoyed wanting to cut in front of other horses.



Basically when you do one of these, they get everyone onto the horses and lined up on the beach before you take off running in the water.
Yes, you read that right.  We take off running into the water.  It is a blast, and I will not lie, it is hard to hold on.  You are bareback, you don't have your feet secured, they are just hanging on the side.  Like you see in the above picture.  You basically hold onto the horses mane and keep your balance.  Your feet sort of bend like into a kneel when you are flying through the water as it gets deeper.


I show the above picture to show, yes you do run into the water on that horse.  Yes, it's true the water isn't crazy deep, but it isn't exactly the same depth at every step.
One minute you are only a foot or so deep, and then before you know it the horse dives down into deeper pockets, and you are floating in your waist jacket while the horse is swimming beneath you to catch his ground again.
All the while, you are (or I was) holding onto that mane, just hoping I wouldn't be the one to fall off:)  Luckily, I kept my balance and didn't fall.


Most of the time, like you see in this picture.  The lead rider is running through the water, circling jumping the different depth pockets.  Pulling the lead horse along, so that all the others are running to follow.
Basically, I think the horses love it.  But they do snort and grunt and growl a lot while they are running/swimming through the deeper sections, keeping their heads above water.
We were sort of in a bay of sorts, where we could run and play about 200 meters or more out from the short.  But just beyond that you see the reef, where the water is breaking.  Right on the other side of that is where the water drops 100's of feet or even 1000's, so obviously you don't go all the way to the reef.



My horse growled a lot, and I swear he kept trying to bite the horse in front's tail.  Then when the horse in front would slow, my horse kept wanting to go and cut in front or go out of line.  I didn't mind it, it's a lot of fun.
I have to say, I would LOVE to do this again, it was so much fun!


I also want to mention, I am NOT in any of these pictures.  You can't exactly take your own pictures while out swimming with the horses.  There is a guy that comes out and takes the shots.  But I took these of the group that went after me.  I don't exactly know any people in these pictures, but it was the best I could do to document my own experience:)  I figured, same horses, same water, same guides its the next best thing to the pictures of myself.

I didn't actually purchase the photo's of myself.  I know your thinking I probably should have, and maybe its my loss.  But I didn't, they wanted a lot of money and oh well.
If I had thought ahead, my friend and I should have gone with different groups, and then we could have each taken each other's riding photographs.
So if you ever go to do this, I highly recommend if you are in a group, separating this so you can do this and get your own pictures and save a little money.  (Of course you won't want the tour guides to know, as they really are all about their tips and making those extra dollars:)

This is so much fun, and you don't have to have any horse skills at all.  I believe there is a weight and age limit for a rider, but other than that anyone can do it.  I loved spending the morning riding on these beautiful horses on both land and sea!!  If you ever get the chance to do this, I highly recommend it.  It took about 2 hours to do it all, from start to finish.

I mentioned above we were in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  But we did take about a 20 minute ride to get to this location from Ocho Rios, and I wish I could remember the exact name of the area we did this in, but I didn't pay close enough attention:(  


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book Review EMERALD GREEN by Kierstin Gier

Anyone who knows me, knows I absolutely loved Ruby Red & Sapphire Blue so much they were my top favorite reads of last year.  I had to wait a year for this final book in Kierstin Geir's trilogy, and I had a feeling it wasn't going to disappoint!
I was right, and let me just say Emerald Green; I loved it, loved it, loved it!

One of the great things about this series is the author writes each book so that the next picks up exactly where the other left off.  Literally to the hour or minute.  So when you pick up the next book, you don't have to spend the first 20 pages trying to remember things, nor do you have to spend those pages trying to get yourself interested in the book.  Instead from page one you are right smack back into the middle of it.

The adventure continues as Gwen is still trying to figure out the secrets of the time traveling society and her purpose in it all.  Additionally, dealing with the hurt that her new love interest Gideon may have been using her this entire time.
One of the things I love about this series are all the twists and new directions the books take the characters on.  Gwen is constantly left wondering who if anyone she knows can be trusted.  She's gradually learning what being the Ruby means and the powers that come with it.

True I guessed a few of the storyline twists, but I think many readers did.  There were still enough intrigue to keep me flipping the pages and reading this one all in one sitting.  I will admit their were a couple of twists that even I didn't see coming, and I think I liked those the most!
Like the other books, this one had me cheering for Gwen and Gideon's romance, loving and hating it (I say hate in a I loved it way) at the same time with all the directions and flips and flops the story kept taking.  Emerald Green still had me laughing.  I adore Gwen's personality and I absolutely love that little gargoyle!  Seriously made me wish I could have a friendly demon gargoyle in my life that no one else could see or talk to but me.  (That would be awesome!)

Did I love this book as much as the others in the series, definitely!  I still pick the 2nd book Sapphire Blue as my favorite of the trilogy. 
If you haven't picked up this series yet, I highly recommend it!  It is so well written, something that is really rare in today's market!   This is one series that will make you laugh out loud, cry, wish, hope and occasionally sigh as Kierstin Gier takes you on a modern day time traveling adventure filled with lots and lots of suspensful deception.
This is a fairly clean series, I recommend this for any age over 14.  But just because it is a YA, don't let that steer an adult away, this is one series that adults will love just as much as youth.  Just make sure when you sit down to read you have plenty of time, because its a hard one to set aside!


Disclaimer: I was not asked to review this book.  All thoughts and opinions are my own after reading the series.

Let me introduce Christopher - Today's Runner Spotlight

Today is Spotlight Thursday 
Each Thursday I spotlight a different runner from around the world.

This week I'd like to introduce Christopher.
I asked Christopher, to tell part of his story and introduce you all to him.  So sit back and enjoy and gain some inspiration!


Tell us what distances you like to run?

I typically run marathons along with a couple 10k's or half marathons each year.  I can't remember the last time I ran a 5k race, I just never do them anymore because to me that is too short for a good workout.  I try and do a new race or distance each year, I have done most of the obstacle course races so this year I signed up for a 50k trail race, it should be interesting.  I try not to run the same marathon twice so I look for ones that fit into my schedule with enough time in between them to recover.


 How long have you been running?  Or when did you start running?

Almost 20 years now, the first big race I ran was a marathon.  Someone told me I couldn't run a marathon so I had to prove them wrong.  My first official race was a 5k in college that I ran in basketball shoes on the spur of the moment.  A few friends didn't think I could run it so they pooled their money and entered me and I ran it. After I ran my first marathon I ran several more then got burned out on them so I just did 5 and 10k's for about 10 years.  I got back into it when a friend had to drop out of marathon because of injury so I took his spot and got the bug back.  Since then I run about 4 or more marathons a year, I am up to 23 total now.


What has been your favorite race and distance you have ever run?  Tell us why?

The Marine Corp Marathon, besides running through all the various historical sites in DC and Arlington it is very inspirational.  There are many disabled vets that run and they usually have part of their squad supporting them the whole way.  It really makes you appreciate how much those in the military do for us that many don't see on a day to day basis.


If you could run any race in the entire world, where would it be and why would you pick it?

I would like to make it back to run Boston again.  I ran in 2012 when we had red flag conditions (it ended up being in the upper 80's on race day), they allowed people to defer to the following year but I was already there so I ran.  It was one of the slower marathons I have ever run and I don't know if I would have finished if there hadn't been people out with hoses on the side of the road spraying people down.  My goal that day was to finish upright and not get hurt.  

Do you enjoy running in the spring, summer, fall or winter the best?

Spring or fall would be my favorite.  Summers can be very hot and dry in Colorado (where I live) and winters are unpredictable.


Have you experienced any trials/injuries/health issues that you have had to overcome?  Tell us about them.

None, I am a run streaker in that I run at least a mile every day so even when I am sore and tired I still go out and run.  I just passed 800 days in my run streak a few weeks ago.  I am very lucky in that I haven't had any injuries, part of it is running by feel, I don't try and push my pace or miles when I'm sore or run down.

Tell me what goes through your mind when you cross a finish line?

It depends on how well I have ran.  If I had a good race I am elated, if not I am just happy to finish another race. 

Do you have a specific distance and PR that you are proud of?  Tell us about it.

I run two 10k races every year: the Airlife Run in Littleton, CO and the Bolder Boulder, I continue to lower my times in these races every year so I just want to keeping that up.  I honestly don't care that much about marathon or half marathon times. I try to run each marathon faster than the last one but weather conditions play a big part of it, I don't run well in high humidity because we have low humidity in Colorado.  

Do you have a funny running story to share?  or funny experience while running?

The fastest marathon I ever ran happened when my Garmin went dead because I forgot to charge it.  I ended up running fast enough to qualify for Boston and won the Clydesdale division of the marathon (this is the only running award I have ever won).  I have not come close to running that fast again and the only reason I can think that I did was because I really just wanted to be done with the race and I had the wind at my back for a long period of time on the last 9 miles.
Many times during a marathon there are people who try and hand out beer to runners along the course.  There have been numerous times where I have taken one and drank part of it.  I know this is weird to some people but to me it's just more carbohydrates! 


Have you run races in any other countries before?

I ran the Berlin Marathon in 2013 (see picture).  It was a great experience and perfect weather, the most interesting thing is that they had tea at some of the water stops (I'm a tea drinker so I drank a few glasses along the way.).


What is your favorite kind of running, solo running or running with a friend or group?

Solo, I travel a fair amount for work so trying to run with others doesn't work with my schedule.

Do you listen to music while you run?  Give us the top 2 running songs on your playlist.

I listen to music most of the time when I run but I will leave the headphones behind so I can run and think or observe nature when I am out on trails.  I get mixes from a website named Rock My Run that can vary according to how long I want to run and what music I feel like listening to.


What is your must have running gadget, or item?

I always wear a baseball or some other type of hat when I run, I don't want to get a sunburned scalp.  I also always carry lip balm because between the sun and wind here in Colorado if I don't apply it often my lips get really chapped.

In your spare time What other hobbies or sports do you love do?

I golf, read, ride my motorcycle, garden, volunteer and take care of my pets.  My wife and I travel to some of my marathons, last year we went to Berlin and then to Munich afterwards. Work isn't a hobby but it keeps me busy.


Do you have any tips of suggestions for someone who is thinking of starting up running?  

Anyone can run, no matter what size and shape you are.  The hardest part is just starting and committing to doing it consistently.  Everyone is different and what training works for one person might not work for someone else.  I incorporate some unusual training methods depending on what race I have coming up.  Find a training program that works for you and stick with it.  Also always keep learning by talking to other runners or reading articles on different training techniques, I constantly keep learning and adjusting how I train.

Any goals you are currently working on, that you'd like to share?

I want to run all of the marathon majors.  I am halfway through having run Chicago, Boston and Berlin, I am running NYC this year and hope to do Tokyo and London in 2015.

Do you have a great accomplishment you have achieved in life?  Do you mind sharing?

I actually weigh less now than I did when I was in high school.  I lift weights as a form of cross training and think it helps me as a runner but it might not work for everyone.  Before I started running I played football and competed in bodybuilding so I don't have the stereotypical runners physique.  When people fins out that I run marathons I usually get "You don't look like a runner".  Most people don't look like what you think as a runner but everyone has it in them.

Tell us a little more about you and share any tips.

The weirdest place I have ever run was on a treadmill on a boat in the Galapagos Islands.  I had started my run streak the previous year and had vacation planned to the Galapagos, we were on a small boat that had a treadmill so I would run a few miles on it every day as we went from island to island.  Some places the water was rough and I came close to getting tossed off the treadmill.

Most runners are good people but many times in races people line up way above their pace level and it slows down everyone behind them.  When you have to run around hundreds of people to continue your pace it takes a toll on your legs and you end up feeling it when you are in the last few miles.  
Always watch where you are throwing off the t-shirt or top you are discarding at the start of a race! I almost went down from a person throwing a sweatshirt off at the beginning of a race because they didn't seem to care they were in a pack of people and it ended up around my legs.


You can follow Christopher on Twitter


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spring Into Fitness Giveaway Hop

 Welcome to the Spring into Fitness Giveaway Blog Hop.  What is a Giveaway Blog Hop?
A group of bloggers who came together to link up with one another, to offer each of their own individual giveaways on their own blogs.  You can easily enter one giveaway, and then hop right on over to the next giveaway on the list entering all or as many as you like!

Additionally, it gives you an awesome opportunity to find new blogs to follow, that you may not have found before.

I'd like to extend a special thanks to my Co-Host at Cat Lady Runs for her help in getting the word out to others.



Alright, so what can you win on my blog?
Well with spring on it's way, most of us can't wait to get out doors.  Maybe you are a runner, walker, hiker...  So I decided ONE WINNER will have their choice of ONE of the following water hydration packs.  Depending on what you love to do outdoors, hopefully one of these is something that will fit perfectly in your lifestyle.




How do you enter for a chance to win?  It's simple, just enter below in the Rafflecopter form.
Note: For the hydration pack, the giveaway is only open to U.S. shipping address, and you must be 18 or older to win.  If you live outside the US and you are the winner, you will be sent a $10 Amazon gift card. - Item color being sent to the winner may vary from the pictures above, based on availability.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now after you've finished on my blog, hop on over to the other fabulous blogs on the list and enter any or all of the giveaways that you'd like!



Let me introduce Sara - Today's Runner Spotlight

Today is Spotlight Thursday 
Each Thursday I spotlight a different runner from around the world.

This week I'd like to introduce Sara.
I asked Sara, to tell part of her story and introduce you all to her.  So sit back and enjoy and gain some inspiration!

Sara Blogs At:


What distances do you like to run?

I have run up to 26.2 miles, but my favorite distance to run is around 15 miles, that is the sweet spot for me.

How long have you been running?

I have always been an athlete, playing soccer through college, so I guess that I have been running since I was a very young child, but I never love to run (unless it was as part of an organized sport.)  I started to just run in March 2010 after my father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  I needed to feel that happy, endorphin rush I messed from playing competitive sports.  It was the only thing I could do at the time that helped me deal with the stress and sadness of this very sudden and unexpected diagnosis.  My parents had been divorced since I was 1 years old and I was all my Dad had, so the responsibility for his care was mine.  I didn't mind this at all, it was just a lot to handle as I lived 45 minutes away, worked full time, was commuting 3+ hours a day and was planning a wedding for that May.  While knowing the hourglass was running out, I was trying to keep up my daily responsibilities while taking care of my Dad, getting him to all his appointments while trying to savor what little time we had left together.  Running helped me stay grounded.

What has been your favorite race and distance you have ever run?  Tell us why?

My current favorite distance is the half marathon.  It's not as time consuming to train for but you can really challenge yourself.  Plus, if I am going to pay money for a race, I want to be out there for more than 20ish minutes.  But my favorite race was my first full marathon because it was a distance that seemed impossible for me to accomplish when I first started running, yet 7 months after lacing up my running shoes for the first time, I ran across the finish line and felt like I could do anything!

If you could run any race in the entire wold, where would it be and why would you pick it?

My dream race has always been the Boston Marathon.  I mean, running the world's oldest annual marathon, a race that has been around since the late 1800's is pretty amazing.  I have been on the sidelines cheering the runners on for year, so I hope that in April, I can say I successfully ran it!

Your training for Boston, if you could pick one thing about the upcoming race that is the part your most looking forward to in the race, what is it?

Wow there are so many things I am looking forward to; I don't think I can pick just one thing.  Boston has such a great crowd support that every other race I have run will seem minuscule in comparison.  The crowd is truly incredible and I cannot wait to experience on the runner's end this year.  also, this will be the first race that my Mom has come to, having her there; knowing that I am running for her makes my heart swell.  Also, being around such incredible athletes, Boston attracts the top runners from all over the wold, how amazing and motivating is that?

Have you experienced any trials/injuries/health issues that you have had to overcome?  Tell us about them.

Absolutely, thankfully, my injuries (past and present) haven't taken me completely out of my running, just set me back at times, so I always tell myself that it could be worse and I need to be thankful that I can still run.  right now I am working closely with my PT and he recently just changed my marathon training plan to help me recover better from my long runs and hopefully help with the nagging calf problems I am dealing with.  I wrote about all my current problems HERE.  So far, I am really enjoying this change in plan.  It has me focusing more on cross training, which I wasn't doing with my last plan.  Focusing on the positives of my new plan has kept me upbeat and energized.  It's really all about perspective.  I would rather look at the positives rather than dwell on the negatives.

Tell me what goes through your mind when you cross a finish line?

Honestly, I am usually thinking, "Thank goodness I am done" followed quickly by, "Where are my warm clothes?"

Do you have a specific distance and PR that you are proud of?  Tell us about it.

I think the PR I am most proud of was my very first 5k, which was a few months after I had my son.  I went into that race hoping to run in the high 9's since I was definitely not in the best shape and I ended up running a 24:58, so an 8:02 pace.  I was SHOCKED when I crossed the finish line and saw my time.  I will never be super speedy and I'm okay with that, but I literally felt on top of the world after that race.

Are you racing for any charities or special organizations you'd like to talk about?  

YES!!  I have been looking for ways to make my running matter, not only to myself but to others.  I've recently gotten involved with the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF.)  My mother was diagnosed in August 2010 with this incurable blood cancer and I am helping to raise funds for research to find a cure.  I am running the Boston Marathon with the MMRF's PowerTeam.  If anyone wants to get involved and help make a difference you can make a tax deductible donation here: http://www.active.com/donate/2014mmrfBoston/sarazwicker

Have you run races in any other countries before?

Not yet, but I would love to.  I was bummed that the last time I was in Germany for work, the day I was leaving there was a half marathon, I SO wish I would have known about it before, I would have extended my trip to run it!

What is your favorite kind of running, solo running or running with a friend or group?

I LOVE running with friends and would much prefer to do it in a group.

Do you listen to music while you run?  Give us the top 2 running songs on your playlist.

Yes!  My favorites change a lot but currently my top 2 songs are Paramore's Still Into You and Gavin DeGraw's Best I Ever Had.

What is your favorite chat food, or snack you enjoy or reward yourself with after your long runs?

I actually reward myself with my "cheat food" before my weekend long runs (after my runs I always crave healthy food?!?)  Friday is pizza night in our house, so we order out every Friday.  I always have a few pieces and it's worth every bite.

In your spare time what other hobbies or sports do you love to do?

I am pretty much up for anything that gets me moving.  I regularly do yoga, strength train, spin, I love to hike, kick box and be outdoors.  I love to play soccer, basketball, kickball.  I'll try anything fitness related at least once.  Outside of being active, I LOVE to read and read at least 1 book a week.

What type of things motivate you and push you towards success in life?

My biggest motivator right now is my son.  I want to be successful and healthy so he has a strong role model to look up to.  I think I have always been motivated to try and be a little bit better than I was yesterday.  I know the power of hard work and with hard work comes success at work, in fitness endeavors and leads to personal growth.  I just want to push myself to be the best version of myself.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for someone who is thinking of starting up running?

I would tell them not to underestimate the power of proper nutrition, a good training plan, stretching and proper sneakers/clothing; these things can make all the difference in your experience!

Do you have any goals you are working on right now that you'd like to share?

My current running goal is to get to the start/finish line of the Boston Marathon healthy, and then, do my best to PR it.  I know this is an incredibly difficult course, so I am training to the best of my ability and doing my PT exercises everyday.  That's the best that I can do and my only focus until after this race.  Then I will re-evaluate and pick a new goal.  I have also committed to running 1000 miles in 2014, which I am well on my way to achieving.

You are a fitness instructor, what is your favorite part of that job?

The best part of that job is helping others reach their goals and helping them realize they can push past what they previously believe were barriers.  When a participant in my class tells me that coming to my class is the best part of their week or when they thank me for pushing them and making them a better person of that they would have never thought they could lift what I just challenged them to lift, there is nothing better than that feeling.  When I teach, that workout is not about me, it's about those in my class and it helps me feel like I am giving back and making a difference.

Do you have a great accomplishment you have achieved in life?
I think one of the accomplishments I am most proud of was getting my MBA.  I was really scared about taking that leap when I had been out of school for so long.  When I got into my top choice school, I was ecstatic.  Then, I found out I was pregnant, so my first year of school I was pregnant and the second year I had a newborn.  Balancing working full time and commuting 3+ hours a day, school, being a first time mom and everything else that comes with being a wife, daughter and friend, there were many times I thought I was crazy for not taking some time off, but I pushed through (with a lot of help and support from my husband) and graduated on time with a 3.5 GPA.  I am incredibly proud of myself for sticking with it and working hard, but also SO happy to be done with school for good!!

What are a few of your dreams or bucket list items?

Right now my bucket list has about a dozen places I want to travel to with my family.  My husband and I love to travel and did it a lot prior to having our son and we want to show him all the incredible places that are out there.  We have some pretty big trips we are planning for the future, once he is a bit older.

Tell us something unique about you.

I was a redhead until the age of about 5, like Annie red and then my hair darkened to auburn.  I wish it would have stayed that vibrant red!



You can find Sara blogging at:
She can also be found on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/lifebetweenthemiles
And Twitter:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton - A book review

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn is a beautifully written and poetic novel based during the frontier times in early America.  This is actually not my first Lori Benton novel, so I knew I was likely going to really enjoy this read before I even started it.

Tamsen Littlejohn has been living under a harsh life with a not so kind stepfather who expects her to do everything she is told and exactly as he wishes.  He's also been an abusive husband to her mother and Tamsen has longed for escape.
When her stepfather pushes the limits by setting up an arranged marriage, Tamsen knows she must get out. Unfortunately attempts on her own do not go as planned.  But when the most horrible thing she could ever imagine happens, she is accepts help from a stranger and frontiersman Jesse Bird and puts her life and fate into his hands.
With nothing more than the clothes on her back, and her own secret treasure together they venture into the wilderness and begin crossing the mountains to escape the stepfather who could be onto them at any time.

Her stepfather and the man he has chosen as her suitor are convinced that Tamsen must have been kidnapped and together they enlist a tracker and head out to bring her back.  But her stepfather has hidden motives for wanting her back, and those motives put her life at complete risk if she is found.

Jesse and his father have been on their own since they left the Shawnee and decided to make their way as frontiersman.  They are highly respected and are known for being able to get a job done, even in dangerous Indian territory.  From the minute Jesse saw Tamsen running out into the street, he was taken by her.  Which is why when he realized the danger she was in, and the help she needed, he didn't hesitate to offer his assistance.  He wasn't sure what would happen next, but one thing has been certain, each day he spends with her, his heart grows fonder and fonder.

Tamsen and Jesse have a rough start, but one thing Tamsen decides early on.  She knows in her heart she can trust Jesse.  Nothing goes exactly as they both hope, but even with all of the bad.  They begin to find friendship in one another.  Jesse knows where his heart is, but is unsure if Tamsen will ever find her way in her heart to that same place.

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, is full of adventure.  Lot's of historically accurate points, that intrigue the mind.  With an early American and Indian frontier timeline.  However, there is no overload of facts.  Lori Benton does a beautiful job of weaving the historical information into her storyline. In other words, you'll feel like you are in full on story, not a bunch of information dump pages!  Additionally, this book has several twists and suspense.
I loved it from beginning to end, this is one of those books that I know I will keep and read again in the future, I enjoyed it so much!  This book is appropriate for any audience, but will probably be more enjoyed by adults or anyone over 16.



I'd love it if you'd take just a minute and rank my review. You will get an email from the book publisher asking you to click on a link to prove your a real person.  But you do NOT have to sign up for any updates or further emails by ranking my review.  THANKS!




Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing for my honest review.  I was not asked to write a positive review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Wild Animals in my Travels

So probably you can tell if you read my blog, that I love to travel and love to take pictures.  Although I am not anywhere near a professional photographer, that doesn't stop me from trying to grab some of the best shots that I am capable of.

I also love to find and see wild animals, I have ever since I was a child.  If I am up camping or out hiking, you can bet I am first enjoying the scenery, but second keeping my eyes out for nearby wildlife.  Most of the time when I see something great, I don't have my camera with me, or don't get it out in time.  However, on one of those rare moments that the camera is there, and I get the shot in, in time then I get some of these that you'll see below.


I captured this young Grizzly bear up near the Montana/Wyoming boarder in Yellowstone National Park.  I love this picture because as I chased him around a little he walked into this meadow of multi-colored wildflowers.  Let me tell you the other favorite part of this picture, no zoom was needed.  I was lucky he came this close to me!


This is the same young grizzly, leaving me.  I think he was annoyed that he was being followed around with a camera.  Which brings me to my rules of capturing bears on camera at close range. Let them come to you.  You can follow them a little after, but if you annoy them too much they will either just leave, or they could become violent.  You can place yourself in bear country and walk around and wait, but if they come near you, are are likely more safe to photograph them, than if you sneak up on them (which I don't recommend ever doing!)


Sorry for the grainy quality of this picture.  I had to use one of those disposable under water cameras.
The picture above, and below were taking off the North Shore in Oahu, Hawaii.  The boat took us out a few miles so we could get out and enjoy diving with sharks.


We had several surrounding us the entire time.  It was awesome!  I hope to have the chance to do it again, and maybe in the future I can purchase a camera that the pictures will be a tad more clear underwater!


I took this picture in Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.  My sister and I were out hiking in the back country in the hot June month and stopped to take a drink break.  All of a sudden this Desert Bighorn Sheep jumped up out of his shade spot underneath the beautiful multi-colored rock you see in the background.  He actually allowed me to get pretty close to him even for a few shots after this one, before he decided to go find some better peace and quiet elsewhere.




The three shots above were taken in the waters off of Kenai Fjords National Park Alaska.  We were actually surrounded by close to 60 of these beautiful Orca's.  These were just a few of my more favorite shots.  Of course I never had the camera ready when they were jumping full out of the water....  But that is the story of my life.  Still I loved capturing a few great shots of these beautiful creatures while they were playing and eating in the water.



I love spotting mountain goats up in the mountains.  Its not as easy as you would think because these agile creatures get way high up in the tops of the rocky mountains and can get around in these high cliff area's amazingly at ease.  These particular shots were taken up in Montana in Glacier National Park.  I was lucky because they were all resting on the mountain close to where we were so it was easy to get a few great shots.  If you've never had the opportunity to spot and watch mountain goats, this is something I highly recommend.  Its amazing to see them walk around with their hooves on high cliff ledges, especially the cute young babies!


Above is the back of a Humpback Whale!  My favorite humpback watching area's are in the Summer in Alaska, or in the winter months in Hawaii.  The picture I chose above was actually taken in the icy waters off of Alaska, near the Seward area.


Elk are something I can easily say I have seen hundred's of in my lifetime.  This is most definitely not the best shot I have, in fact I have some amazing close up shots of some trophy elk.  But I'll save those for another time.  That and they are on some of my other camera cards, that I can't remember at this exact time where I placed them:)  Still the above shot is still of a beautiful one!  This shot was taken in Wyoming, in Yellowstone National Park.


Seals are always easy to spot, along certain coasts.  This large pack of them I took on one of the islands in Alaska, in the Northwestern Fjords area.  A side note, the reason the rock they are on looks the way it does, it was once covered as likely a huge glacier, and the cracks and look of it is the after effect of the melting process.  the seals jump up onto the island rock at higher tide and then sunbath.


This beautiful and huge sleepy buffalo was taken up in Yellowstone National Park, on the Montana side.  I will be honest, getting down to grab this shot was probably not one of my smarter moments!  Luckily, he didn't wake up and I got in and out quick!  I'll go with my "do not do this" caption with this photo.  Buffalo can be really aggressive, and although they are easily found in Yellowstone, they will come after you or your vehicle if you get in their way.  So be smart and keep a safe distance.


I saved this cute picture for last.  This is a mother Grizzly Bear and her two younger cubs.  This shot was taken in Denali National Park, Alaska.  They were taking an afternoon nap in this picture.  But as I went through Denali, I believe we counted seeing over 22 bears in one day.  However, most people visit and never see even one.  I've even spoken to people who live there and have never seen any.
Like all animals, they key is to keep your eyes open.  Bear watching is a tad different than other animals because basically you are looking around for fuzzy looking rocks:)  That is the best way to describe what you are looking for when you are bear watching.  Its also a lot easier to spot them in open terrain, versus forest area's.
I'll be honest, before I learned this trick about 6 years ago, I hardly ever spotted bears unless they walked right out in front of me.  Now that I have learned a few tricks, I spot bears all the time when I am traveling or even here in my home state.

Another tip for bear watching and photography.  If you are out hiking, it is best to make noise in bear country, you never want to surprise them!  You can talk or carry a bell... Most the time they'll know you are in the area long before you get there, and they'll leave or hide until you leave.  Sometimes they won't care and they'll stay out and let you take pictures.  But just remember, don't get closer than they want you to be, and keep a safe distance!
If they are out and about and walking around and come near you great.  If you see one in the distance and try to run up to get closer, not good!  Be smart and maybe you'll be lucky to get some great shots too!

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I have 100's more photo's of different animals.  But I will save them for another time, so this post doesn't get too huge!  But to give you a teaser, sometime in the future I'll show some other favorite pictures - Trophy deer, Antelope, Wild Mustangs, Fox, Dolphins, Sea Turtles, Stingray's, Trophy Elk and probably some more awesome bear shots to name a few.
I am yet to get a cougar (a.k.a. mountain lion) shot though....  I have been pretty close to a cougar and once had a great shot of one 20 feet away.  However, I didn't have a camera with me on that day when I was out running.  So that is one wild animal I am still waiting for my great shot of!  Maybe this summer...